The only alternative is your own alternative
Approximately 250 years ago German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s essay “Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?” was released in one of the Berlin magazines.
Kant answered: Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity, and the reason is not the lack of understanding, but the lack of resolution and courage.
This year Armenia marked the 25th anniversary of its Independence. We summarize the essence and content of these 2 decades through speaking, discussing, swearing, fighting, emigrating…
|The achievements and shortcomings of Independence
The way to Independence is not easily passable: on that way there are losses and failures, but at the same time achievements and shortcomings.
We will start from achievements: we distinguish two significant achievements – first, Armenia’s membership to the UN. Perhaps this will bring smile to a lot of faces, but what makes the membership to the UN so important?
Around 3000-4000 ethnic groups exist in the world, around 200 recognized countries, the Republic of Armenia is among these 200 countries. Until nowadays state building and statehood remain a desirable goal for any ethnos and nation. We have already passed this way.
The second achievement, which was generally one of the significant events of the Armenian history and particularly of its modern period, was undoubtedly Artsakh Liberation War, for it belonged to the independence generation bringing the independence and victory. The weight and size of our independence is also conditioned by this.
As far as the shortcomings are concerned, the most essential and significant one was that throughout these years we failed to build independent consciousness among civilians. Today we often speak on the forms and content of civil society in Armenia, and manifold characteristics are given. The fact is that this field has remained a gap, and this is our issue, which is to be solved.
State is not a building, state is not power, state is not a regime, the citizens are the state.
The development of societies processes in 3 temporal dimensions – past, present and future. British thinker Arnold Toynbee opined that societies directed to the past are doomed to non-existence, societies living in and tending to the present are doomed to stagnation and societies tending to the future alone are capable of developing.
The next shortcoming was that throughout these years we did not succeed in shaping a vision for the future as it is, forasmuch as each of us lives in dissimilar futures. Of the Armenian society fetishisation of the past, in the present, somewhat rude, the animal instinct of survival is characteristic and the future has remained out of the temporal dimension within us.
The pure fact when 3 poles of Armenian nation – Armenia, Diaspora and Artsakh unite in either the Genocide which is a past or Artsakh issue which is of crucial importance for us, consequently, this is our present issue, is the proof of the aforementioned. And it seems that nothing unites us in the future.
While the modeling, planning and outlining of the future is extremely essential, even if the layout of that future is utopian, then this utopia is important as well because it is one of the most important events accompanying social reality. Peoples lacking a dream often go to extremes, and today we see the seeds in our society.
|What are the shortcomings conditioned by?
In Armenia commonly all initiatives stem from individual existential bio-philosophy: there are no tendencies of acting together or forming joint demands within us. We have diverse private, individual, group interests but we lack common interests. French philosopher Derrida noted, if a specific period of time, society or specific individuals do not have discursive means to express their needs, then they turn into a “victim” and are doomed to silence.
In order to understand shortcomings it is necessary to rebound and analyze the social lifestyle. Here we notice that traditional culture is typical to the Armenian society, we are a traditional society and our issue is to transit from traditional to political, civil society. Which is the essential difference of these two? Traditional societies, being closed systems for the most part, are pragmatic and stereotypical. Consequently, there are no tendencies to examine or to solve the problems on theoretical level, on the contrary, here the problems are hidden and alienated. Very often this leads to such kind of morbid extremes, the examples of which are the phenomena such as pro- , -phob, -phil(e): pro-Russian, pro-American, pro-European, Russophile… – when we pin our own disability to solve problems or the opportunity of solving them on different states, peoples, organizations. It turns out that during these years we have not become pro-statehood or pro-Armenian.
Another factor to cause shortcomings is authority vs. society discourse. Here we mark a huge gap between society and authority. We perceive authority negatively, it is associated with falsification, violence, pressure and lie.
Administrative regimes predominantly are not inclined to conflicts, as in case of conflicts they have to use force while in these confused ideological conditions (because the political field of Armenia is still amorphous) the dominating party can easily neutralize the powers of its opponents and make them be loyal to its private policy. There is a popular saying, “Authority destroys, the absolute authority destroys absolutely”.
Foucault had an interesting viewpoint concerning authority and society relationships, when he remarked that authority is a universal concept, however, it is universal not because it involves everything, but because it comes out from everywhere, it has heterogeneous exits. Consequently, the relationships of the authority are the same relationships of power, relationships of resistance and opposition simultaneously. It means that these relations are always changeable and the society always has a chance to develop its own alternative.
Today we should clearly acknowledge that the change of any political power is not a solution. Society can always develop its own alternatives and can do it only by participation.
Participation is of an educational importance, since through it one becomes socially and politically more active. In virtue of participation, people remain the owner of their rights and freedoms. Moreover, as we speak of freedom, it necessarily implies responsibility.
The opposite vector of participation is indifference, which is also one of the factors determining our shortcomings.
Gramsci indicates a wonderful conception of apathy. His article “Indifference”, aimed at social layer for which the existing reality is viewed as given and which never even discusses an alternative reality, notes that if a person was born, he cannot ignore his role of a participant, cannot refuse to be a citizen. Everything that takes place is not so much because of some people wishing it, it is because a huge mass of people renounce their will, as indifference is not life, it is not a will, but unwillingness, parasitism and cowardice.
Yes, the situation is critical, but crisis is not agony, is not a collapse. In Greek terminology, the term crisis (κρίσις /krísis/, κρίνω /krínō/) means I value, choose, decide. Our task is to weigh the situation and create alternatives. The concept of participatory democracy should be question on the agenda and first of all, democracy is a form of public self: how I treat myself and how I treat others.
Today we have received quite a heavy social and psychological burden but we have to debark them because in the case of not solving the problems they do not disappear but become harder instead.
And today the youth, why youth in particular, because during all the periods of time and in all societies, youth has been the power to bring change and is able to lead to certain changes. Current Armenian youth must be zealous, brave and courteous, permanent mutineer of indifference, injustice and unrighteousness, revolutionist but not guided by the slogan ” Fight Till the End ” as revolution has ceased to be a romantic conception for a long time and first and foremost it must be implemented on the level of consciousness.
Presently, in this global world, when the world is already the whole world, to communicate with the world we have to talk in its language. Therefore, our education and upbringing should not be merely based on patriotic-military conceptions, it should be based on intelligence and humanism.
The independence which is on the irrational level within us should be brought to the rational level. Unlike traditional, in political and civil societies all these are subjected to rationalization. Here there is an exact consciousness that the knowledge is the only means to solve problems.
Currently we have problems in the fields of education and upbringing and to found a rational state we need aesthetic and ethical education. Forasmuch as the aesthetic perceptions condition people’s moral choices and a person with a sense of taste is less susceptible to manifold forms of political demagogy.
Otherwise we have serious consequences – we become merely a mass of consumers to which everything can be delivered. As a result, we become a lumpenized society, based on the quasi-values – poor education, low quality art, illiterate elite…
Society is an environment of social masks. It is everybody’s choice whether to be engaged in politics or to be involved in political processes. Today we all are required to have the necessary outlook, a culture to generate our own opinions, and most importantly, we should be able to play our role as citizens.
We should always remember that our opportunities depend on what we dare to do, and we should always be ready without thinking about their limitations.
Returning to Kant: his Enlightenment slogan sounded as – “Sapere aude!” – Dare to think! Dare to think and accomplish your idea!!